St. Louis Post-Dispatch selects Continent as a 2004 Book of the Year

http://www.stltoday.com/stltoday/entertainment/stories.nsf/books/story/2C995EF7F63B2ECD86256F600026B706?OpenDocument&Headline=Literary+Scrooges,+wake+up!

A Continent for the Taking: The Tragedy and Hope of Africa by Howard W.
French (Knopf, 304 pages, $25). A correspondent for The New York Times,
French offers deeply felt dispatches about the chaos and misery engulfing
modern Africa. He also recalls the continent’s well-structured society of
ancient kingdoms during pre-colonial times and argues that Africa would be
a more stable continent today had it not been for the “violent European
hijacking” of its political development during four centuries of slavery.


Nonfiction
Against All Enemies by Richard A. Clarke (Free Press, 304 pages, $27). In
looking back at his stint as a White House counterterrorism official,
Clarke has unkind things to say about President George W. Bush’s record
before 9/11 – and after it, too. This book attracted tons of coverage on
cable TV and talk radio.
American Brutus: John Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln Conspiracies by Michael
W. Kauffman (Random House, 496 pages, $35). The assassination of Abraham
Lincoln in 1865, like the assassination of John F. Kennedy almost 100 years
later, has inspired an endless flow of conspiracy theories. Were documented
facts and sound reasoning sufficient to stanch that flow, this impressively
researched book would do it – but it can’t perform miracles.
American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune and the Politics of Deceit in the
House of Bush by Kevin Phillips (Viking, 297 pages, $25.95). Just because
George W. Bush won a second term in the White House is no reason to ignore
how the Bush family has become America’s leading political dynasty.
Phillips, perhaps best described as a disenchanted conservative, explains
how the 43rd president rose to his present position and how his father, the
41st president, took advantage of his family’s position in finance, oil and
politics to prepare the way for his son
American Sucker by David Denby (Little, Brown, 337 pages, $24.95). Swept up
in the twin frenzies of an overheated stock market and the excitement of
the Internet, the writer and movie critic learns the hard way one of the
oldest lessons of Wall Street: It’s OK to be a bull or a bear but not a
pig.
The Americans at D-Day by John C. McManus (Forge Books, 400 pages, $26.95).
St. Louisan McManus focuses his military historian’s skills on the Normandy
invasion of June 1944, producing a coherent – and earthy – account of a
most untidy day.
Arc of Justice by Kevin Boyle (Henry Holt, 415 pages, $26). Using the gifts
of a fiction writer and the gumshoe research of a reporter, Boyle conjures
the year 1925 in Detroit, when one brave family decided they were going to
cross the color line, no matter what the consequences. Winner of a National
Book Award.
Atlas of Lewis & Clark in Missouri by James D. Harlan and James M. Denny
(University of Missouri Press, 138 pages, $59.95). The authors follow Lewis
and Clark from the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers, across
the state of Missouri, to the Nebraska-Iowa border (Nov. 14, 1803, to July
18, 1804) and again on the return (Sept. 9-23, 1806). Twenty-seven
full-page maps make this book truly unique and appealing.
The Bullet’s Story by William Pfaff (Simon & Schuster, 335 pages, $27.95).
Pfaff traces the proponents of romantic violence in the first half of the
20th century, considering the excitement and good intentions of many of the
most colorful figures of that time (such as Lawrence of Arabia) but
concluding that their contribution was essentially damaging to our
civilization.
Chain of Command: The Road From 9/11 to Abu Ghraib by Seymour Hersh
(HarperCollins, 394 pages, $25.95). One of the most talented, persistent
investigative journalists who ever lived expands on his exposes for The New
Yorker magazine to portray George W. Bush’s White House and military
decision-makers out of control. Hersh is always controversial, but his
documentation from records, direct observation and interviews seems
irrefutable.
The Coming of the Third Reich by Richard Evans (Penguin, 461 pages,
$34.95). Evans, a noted historian of Nazi Germany produces here the first
volume of a thorough and well-written study of the rise and fall of the
Hitler regime. This work, which ends in 1933, is something of a warm-up for
the main act, but it is a fine history of Weimar Germany and the
development of Nazism.
A Continent for the Taking: The Tragedy and Hope of Africa by Howard W.
French (Knopf, 304 pages, $25). A correspondent for The New York Times,
French offers deeply felt dispatches about the chaos and misery engulfing
modern Africa. He also recalls the continent’s well-structured society of
ancient kingdoms during pre-colonial times and argues that Africa would be
a more stable continent today had it not been for the “violent European
hijacking” of its political development during four centuries of slavery.
The Dictators by Richard Overy (Norton, 651 pages, $35). Overy compares the
regimes of Hitler and Stalin, their institutions and behavior with clinical
skill. These two governments spent their time (usually) excoriating each
other, but the remarkable similarities are well explained in this book.
Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne
Truss (Gotham Books, 240 pages, $17.50). Truss gives you permission to love
punctuation. A passionate diatribe against the misuse of commas and
apostrophes, it’s witty, entertaining, anecdotal – and informative.
The End of Blackness: Returning the Souls of Black Folk to Their Rightful
Owners by Debra J. Dickerson (Pantheon, 304 pages, $24). Just as
controversial as Dickerson’s first book, titled “An American Story,” this
new work suggests that it’s time for black Americans to stop blaming racism
for their problems and start looking inward for ways to uplift themselves
and their communities.
Generation Kill by Evan Wright (Putnam, 354 pages, $24.95). When the United
States invaded Iraq in March 2003, Wright, a reporter for Rolling Stone,
was embedded with a forward-edge Marine reconnaissance unit. His detailed
recounting of the Marines’ dialogue and reasons for being there is a
priceless realty check for anyone who has blind faith in the American
crusade against al-Qaida and Saddam Hussein.
The Great Influenza by John M. Barry (Viking, 546 pages, $29.95). Medical
science is already bracing for a rerun of the worldwide flu epidemic that
killed millions in 1918. Writer Barry looks backward at the awful event of
1918 – and forward to the inevitability of another such outbreak.
The Hidden Cost of Being African American by Thomas M. Shapiro (Oxford
University Press, 238 pages, $28). Drawing on empirical data and interviews
with 200 families in St. Louis, Boston and Los Angeles, Thomas M. Shapiro
argues that inherited wealth has given many whites special advantages over
blacks on virtually every quality-of-life scale, from the neighborhoods
whites live in to the schools their children attend. This black-white
economic gap will widen, he warns, as about $9 trillion in wealth largely
in white hands is bequeathed to baby boomers and others during the next
three decades.
House of Bush, House of Saud: The Secret Relationship Between the World’s
Two Most Powerful Dynasties by Craig Unger (Scribner, 356 pages, $26). The
2004 election may be over, but Unger would argue that anyone who disregards
the Bush family’s ties to the ruling Saudi family would be guilty of
willful disbelief. Unger, citing many published sources, pulls together
revealing facts about the close relationship of several generations of
Bushes to the Saudis.
Israel on the Appomattox: A Southern Experiment in Black Freedom From the
1790s Through the Civil War by Melvin Patrick Ely (Knopf, 632 pages, $35).
Zeroing in on a minuscule piece of ante-bellum history, Ely discovers an
absorbing story of how a group of slaves in Prince Edward County, Va.,
built a successful community and apparently enjoyed relatively easy
business and social relations with their white neighbors. He is an example
of researchers who are rediscovering slavery and are looking for fresh and
provocative things to say about the era.
The Kennedy Assassination Tapes by Max Holland (Knopf, 453 pages, $26.95).
Lyndon Johnson’s concerns about the assassination of John F. Kennedy and

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *